Another Dahlgren recovered from CSS Georgia … and a rifled one at that!

The days since the Sesquicentennial ended have been very interesting for those of us with an interest in heavy Civil War ordnance.  Three cannon came out of the PeeDee River in South Carolina, once armament of the CSS Pee Dee.  Two rare Brooke rifles and a Dahlgren shell gun.  And there is the ongoing recovery operation in the Savannah River, aiming to remove the CSS Georgia’s remains before dredging widens the ship channel there.  Earlier this summer the Army Corps of Engineers shipped four recovered cannon, to include a Dahlgren smootbore and a 6.4-inch Brooke Rifle to Texas A&M University to undergo preservation treatment.

And last month, authorities announced a surprise finding… another Dahlgren gun found in the Savannah River.  That makes a total of three Dahlgrens recovered this year.  And this one is identified as a rifled Dahlgren.

DahlgrenPress releases from the Army Corps of Engineers provide only details as to the weight, being 9,000 pounds. That weight puts the weapon in the IX-inch Dahlgren class. But I am unfamiliar with any rifling of that type, class of weapon by either Federal or Confederate sources.  It is possible, given the general weight provided in the release, that the Dahlgren was cast to the IX-inch form but bored out to a smaller caliber.  Likewise it could have been a smoothbore with groves added.  Confederate sources used both practices to provide rifled ordnance during the war.  Views of the cannon in the photos lead me to believe this is a IX-inch that was rifled. Interesting to note, authorities speculated there would be a second Dahlgren based on documentary evidence.  And the recovery of rifled projectiles of a sort not matching to the already identified weapons lead them to believe this second Dahlgren was there at the river bottom. Here are some more photos of the Dahlgren:




After 150 years and nine months under the Savannah River, the Dahlgren is now on dry land.  I’m looking forward, years ahead, when all the artifacts from the CSS Georgia will be on display.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 1st Regiment, US Regulars

Kicking off what I hope will be a long, productive, and in some ways collaborative effort, let me offer some sections of the Summary Statement of Ordnance from December 31, 1862.  We’ll start with the US Regular Artillery… and as appropriate, the First Regiment (click for larger view in Flickr).


Here’s my read of the First Regiment’s disposition and weapons on hand, broken down by battery:

  • Battery A:  No location listed.  But we know this battery was posted to Louisiana. Four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery B: Hilton Head, South Carolina.  Three 12-pdr Napoleons and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery C: One annotation states “Infantry” and a word I cannot make out.  The battery had no assigned weapons and served in the Fort Macon garrison in North Carolina.
  • Battery D: Beaufort, South Carolina. Two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Battery E: Falmouth, Virgina.  Four 12-pdr Napoleons. Not noted on the summary, this battery served with the Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, at the time of the report.
  • Battery F:  No details offered.  The battery was stationed in the defenses of New Orleans.
  • Battery G:    No details offered.  The battery was assigned to Battery E (above) at this time of the war.
  • Battery H: Falmouth, Virgina.  Six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Battery H was assigned to the 1st Regular Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery I: Location not listed, but known to be at Falmouth.  Six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Assigned to Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery K: “Camp near Falmouth, Va.”  Six 12-pdr Napoleons.  Assigned to Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
  • Battery L: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Four 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrott Rifles.
  • Battery M: Beaufort, South Carolina. Two 12-pdr Napoleons, two 24-pdr field howitzers, and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.

That introduces the battery, its assignments, and weapons. Also note the first column on the left – the date the returns arrived at the department.  Only four of the Ordnance Returns arrived by the first quarter of 1863 (shall we call that the “due” date?).  Of the others, three arrived later in the year.  And two returns didn’t arrive until mid-1864.  We should take this into account as a variable with respect to accuracy.

Lots of “back story” for the operational history of these batteries.  I’ll try to keep that short for now, as each probably deserves a separate history.  Today, I’d highlight Battery A.  We have a photo of that battery,  commanded by Captain Edmund C. Bainbridge, at Port Hudson later the following spring:

Closest to the camera is one of the battery’s Napoleons.

The other interesting data set to glean from the summaries is the ammunition reported.  I cannot easily reproduce a snip to present here, but relate my effort to transcribe:

  • Battery A – 384 12-pdr fixed spherical case, 128 12-pdr fixed canister, 200 3-inch shot, 72 3-inch canister, and 130 3-inch percussion shell.
  • Battery B – 48 12-pdr fixed shell, 80 12-pdr fixed spherical case, and 56 12-pdr fixed canister.
  • Battery C – No ammunition reported.
  • Battery D – 156 3-inch Dyer shell and 14 3-inch Dyer canister.
  • Battery E – 128 12-pdr fixed shot, 56 12-pdr fixed shell, 182 12-pdr fixed spherical case, and 101 12-pdr fixed canister.
  • Battery F – No ammunition reported.
  • Battery G – No ammunition reported.
  • Battery H – 254 12-pdr fixed shot, 96 12-pdr fixed shell, 281 12-pdr fixed spherical case, and 96 12-pdr fixed canister.
  • Battery I – 96 12-pdr fixed shell, 340 12-pdr fixed spherical case, and 296 12-pdr fixed canister.
  • Battery K – 288 12-pdr fixed shot, 96 12-pdr fixed shell, 288 12-pdr fixed case, and 96 12-pdr fixed canister.
  • Battery L – 192 12-pdr fixed shot, 48 12-pdr fixed shell, 240 12-pdr fixed canister, and 320 10-pdr Parrott shell.
  • Battery M -468 12-pdr fixed shot, 122 12-pdr fixed shell, 436 12-pdr fixed case, 68 12-pdr fixed canister; 36 24-pdr strapped shell, 66 24-pdr strapped case, 6 24-pdr canister; 12 3-inch shot, 12 3-inch canister, 12 3-inch percussion shell, 24 3-inch fuse shell, 80 3-inch “bullet” shell (case shot?); 141 10-pdr Parrott shell, 200 10-pdr Parrott case, and 90 10-pdr Parrott canister.

The big question mark over this transcription is the ammunition reported by Battery M.  That battery had the most variety of ordnance, but why the mix of 3-inch and Parrott projectiles in a battery with only 3-inch rifles?  Did the battery use Parrott projectiles in the Ordnance Rifles?  Was this just excess ammunition on hand? An error in identification? Transcription error?  MY transcription error (though I have double checked the lines four times)?

One more set I’ll throw out there for the N-SSA folks – the small arms and edged weapons reported from the batteries of the 1st Regiment:

  • Battery A – 33 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery B – 84 caliber .58 rifle muskets, 73 caliber .44 revolvers, 11 cavalry sabers, and 62 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery C – None reported
  • Battery D – 76 caliber .58 rifle muskets, 108 caliber .44 revolvers, 8 cavalry sabers, 56 horse artillery sabers, and 6 foot artillery sabers.
  • Battery E – 14 caliber .44 revolvers and 14 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery F –  None reported.
  • Battery G – None reported.
  • Battery H – 22 caliber .44 revolvers and 16 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery I – 12 caliber .38 revolvers and 14 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K -20 caliber .44 revolvers, 39 cavalry sabers, and 82 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L – 12 caliber .58 rifle muskets, 62 caliber .38 revolvers, and 8 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery M – 77 caliber .58 rifle muskets, 104 caliber .44 revolvers, 1 caliber .38 revolver, 9 cavalry sabers, 60 horse artillery sabers, and 9 foot artillery sabers.

I would be pressed to draw any conclusions from this sampling of data except that Battery M, stationed in South Carolina, was loaded up for a fight!



Fortification Friday: The symbiotic relationship between attack and defense

As we leaf through Mahan’s Treatise on Field Fortifications, the lesson plan offered, after defining components of the profile and trace, an important perspective for planning and evaluating fortifications – a connection between the attack and defense of the works:

The attack and defense of intrenchements bear a necessary relation to each other; and it is upon a knowledge of the course pursued by the assailant, that the principles regulating the defense should be founded.

Grant me some license for an analogy here and call this a symbiotic relationship.  Symbiotic, that is, borrowed from biology and defining two organisms of different species that exhibit a long-term, close interaction.  In the case of military affairs, the only reason a place would be defended with earthworks is because the defender feels an attacker might wish to gain possession.  Furthermore, the defender would build the works specifically to counter (if not deter) the most likely form of attack.  Likewise, the attacker would plan the assault based on knowledge of the layout of the defenses.  In short, one plan will exist only because of the other, counter, plan.  Otherwise, there’s simply no reason for the planned action – be that placing a defensive work or organizing an assault of the position.

Mahan elaborated further, providing the students a generalized example of what an attack looked like:

 An attack is, generally, opened by a fire of the enemy’s artillery, whose objective is to silence the fire of the intenchments, and to drive the assailed from the parapet; when this object is attained, a storming party, which usually consists of a detachment of engineer troops, a column of attack, and a reserve, is sent forward, under the fire of the artillery, to the assault. The detachment of engineer troops proceeds the column of attack, and removes all obstacles that obstruct its passage into the ditch. The line of march is directed upon a salient, through a sector without fire, and on the prolongation of the capital, as this line is least exposed to the fire of the works.

Depicting that approach on Mahan’s figure:


See how this approach was designed to take advantage of an inherent flaw of the works? Mahan continued with more exploitation of the fortification flaws:

When the ditch is gained, the party makes its way to a re-entering angle, where, sheltered from the fire of the flanks, the work is entered by the column of attack, either by making a breach in the parapet, or else by means of ladders.  The reserve supports the column of attack in case of need; and if it is driven from the works, covers its retreat.

Again, as that would look on Mahan’s figure:


This approach allowed the attacker to pick apart the defense by working under the parapet within the ditch inside the dead space, avoiding the angles of defense.

So how does that look from the defenders side?

The manner of making the defense is with artillery, musketry, the bayonet, and sorties.  The enemy is attained at a distance by the fire of the artillery and musketry, whose effect will chiefly depend upon the length of time that he is kept exposed to it by the ditch, and the obstacles in front of it. The bayonet is resorted to, as soon as the enemy shows himself on the berm; and sorties are made, either when any irresolution or confusion is seen in the enemy’s ranks, or at the moment he is repulsed from the parapet.

Note that Mahan didn’t emphasize here the nature of the parapets, faces, and flanks in order to build the perfect defensive line.  That technical perspective he saved for a more detailed explanation.  Instead he focused on what the defender could do with their weapons.  Implied in the notion of the sortie is that the defender retained high motivation to conduct such a counter-attack.  And with that, Mahan is admitting that flaws would be present in any defense.  To mitigate those flaws, where existing, the defender applied cold steel, hot lead, flesh, and bone.

But you see here how the nature of attack and defense fit against each other.  The attack had to be planned with a mind to exploit the flaws of the defense.  The defense had to be planned to minimize those flaws.  After establishing that symbiotic relationship, Mahan proceeded to lay out nine principles of the defense – some technical, others tactical, and yet others addressing the “spirit” of the defenders.  We’ll take a look at those next week.

(Citations from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, pages 5-6.)